Filmmaker Maya Newell has certainly had a busy year, with the release of her debut feature documentary, Gayby Baby, garnering international headlines for its unique look at Australian kids being raised by same-sex parents.
The film observes the daily life of "gaybies" (like herself) growing up in Australia. We see the specific challenges they face at school and on the street, along with the everyday moments that are typical of families the world over. You can watch Gayby Baby on at SBS On Demand now.
We invited Maya Newell to dive into the catalogue of movies and documentaries at SBS On Demand, and recommend her Top Ten. (Click on the yellow SBS On Demand logo to access the video.)
Cutie and the Boxer
(Zachary Heinzerling, 2013)
"I chased this film for months - I missed it at festivals, in cinemas, on broadcast… but I finally saw it on SBS on Demand! A tender doc that lets us into the love, frustration, disappointment, and chaos of Noriko and Ushio’s 40-year marriage and artistic life together. It’s an elegant, and nourishing study on creativity, relationships and the art of ageing."
(Sophie Hyde, 2013)
"I remember watching Sophie Hyde’s masterpiece for the first time at Sydney Film Festival… I sat captivated by the intimate world of 16-year-old Billy whose foray into adolescence is paralleled by her mothers second puberty and transition into a man. Beautifully edited, innovative in style, I revelled in witnessing this unique perspective on the big screen."
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
(Mike Lerner Maxim Pozdorovkin, 2013)
"I watched this at Sydney Film Festival at its Australian Premiere. In the dark of the cinema, I sat back in my chair, captivated by these four strong women who refused to let Vladimir Putin constrain what they were, and how they would behave as women in today’s Russia. In a show of astronomical courage, this film inspired action… My family and friends and I, handmade copy-cat Pussy Riot masks and staged a musical protest in Sydney CBD in solidarity for the women who were put behind bars for their actions revealed in this doc."
(Ana Kokkinos, 1998)
"This '80s classic is a stellar example of queer Australian cinema. In one of his best performances, Alex Dimitriades is caught between his Greek-ness, his Australian-ness and his gay identity…"
Turtles can fly
(Bahman Ghobadi, 2004)
"This film was recommended to me when I was 18 years old by a very dear friend and storyteller extraordinaire Billy Marshall Stoneking. Turtles Can Fly began my spiral into an obsession with Iranian New Wave Cinema, where stories are largely inhabited by the worlds of children, deemed not capable of a political comment by the government censorship agencies, and thus the perfect vehicle for Iranian filmmakers with something to say. The characters in this particular film are kids who await their fate in a refugee camp on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq."
(Andrea Arnold, 2009)
"When I was studying in London, I often hid away in the Institute of Contemporary Art, where I could safely bury myself in local and world cinema. It was here that I discovered the powerful work of director Andrea Arnold and watched Fish Tank. In the film, we meet Mia, a rough and sassy 15-year-old wanting out from a world where social services are knocking on the door daily. I particularly loved the heartbreakingly honest performance from this previously uninitiated actress and the depiction of the complex relationship between Mia and her mother."
(Louie Psihoyos, 2009)
"Through an exploration of the questionable and cruel hunting practices of dolphins in Japan, this film put me off eating anything from the ocean for years. This is the first serious undercover, true detective doc I had seen… Putting their safety at high risk, these filmmakers captured their secret mission by hiding cameras in rocks and inserting underwater microphones in the sea-bed to shine a light on the abhorrent slaughter of dolphins by the whaling industry in Japan."
(Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, 2006)
"The first time I saw the somewhat troubling scenes of children speaking in tongues and falling to the floor in evangelical ecstasy... Following character Becky Fisher, we enter a training camp for ‘God’s Army’, world where the bible is presented as science and children caress a life size cardboard cut-out of President Bush. This Academy Award Nominated doc is alarming and disarming and had me glued."
(Steve James, 1994)
"Hoop Dreams is a landmark doc that has entertaining audiences all over the world for over two decades. The film follows two boys who dream of being basketball stars in a fascinating longitudinal study of race, sport and class. A classic."
(Maya Newell, 2015)
"It would be strange if I didn’t recommend my own film seeing as I am a so thrilled that, after 5 years in the making, it is finally available on SBS on Demand! Gayby Baby explores the story of same-sex parented families told entirely from the rarely heard perspective of the kids. It's screened in film festivals around the world, it's ACCTA-nominated, AWGIE-nominated and has shaped a national dialogue about family equality in Australia. I hope you can take the time to meet these four incredible children and their families."